UK employers show broad support for EU originating employment laws

UK employers do not believe a bonfire of employment law is necessary as the UK prepares for Brexit, according to new research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

A survey of more than 500 employers showed 93% rate unfair dismissal laws as necessary, 87% said the same about national minimum wage legislation, 82% about parental rights at work, 75% about agency workers laws and 74% about the Working Time Regulations. All 28 areas of employment law surveyed were rated as necessary by a majority of employers.

The findings make up part of ‘Employment Regulation in the UK: Burden or Benefit?’, a new report by the CIPD/Lewis Silkin. They show broad support among employers for the UK’s employment rights framework including EU originated legislation as negotiations over the country’s departure from the EU begin.

Rachel Suff, Employment Adviser at the CIPD, said: “This research shows that in many ways, the rhetoric around employment law simply does not match the reality. While much has been written about the need to roll back important aspects of our employment law framework to free businesses of red tape, it is clear that businesses themselves recognise the value of employment protection.

“Many of these regulations exist to protect workers against exploitation, ensure they are paid a fair wage and prevent discrimination in the workplace and can help improve people management practices. Even the more controversial aspects of employment law, such as the Working Time Regulations, have broad support from UK businesses.

“As we debate the future of employment regulation, both in the general election and in Brexit negotiations, it is vital that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater by making sweeping changes to employment legislation that businesses may not want.”

The research did find that while all of the regulations are considered necessary, there are many that businesses say are not well drafted and potentially difficult to apply. For example, the agency workers laws were rated as necessary by three quarters of businesses, but just a third said that they are well drafted and easy to apply. The CIPD says there may be room in these instances for revisiting laws, though not abandonning them.

The research also finds that more than half (52%) of employers go beyond what’s required when it comes to employment law, while 44% say they meet the minimum requirements. When asked what areas should be the focus of future legislation to improve protections, more than a third (36%) say well-being issues, such as workplace stress, and a nearly a third (30%) say technology should be the focus, for instance, the pressure to be constantly connected to the workplace.

The research, which looked at a wide variety of employment laws and practices, also found:

  • More than half (52%) of employers go beyond the legal minimum requirements when implementing employment law.
  • Employers recognise the positive impact of employment law on their employees, with more than two-thirds (68%) agreeing that it increases employees’ sense of fairness and trust in the employer, and seven in ten (69%) saying implementing employment law improves the quality of employees’ working lives.
  • One in five (19%) employers believe the number of tribunal claims have decreased as a result of the introduction of employment tribunal fees, with just 3% reporting an increase.
  • A third (34%) of employers want the existing level of employment tribunal fees maintained. However, the majority view is that employers want fundamental change, with 15% saying the fees should be abolished, 11% agreeing that they should be substantially reduced and 19% supporting a single £50 fee for all claims.

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